Check, Please!: One Writer’s Blog Post Checklist
You see that overly serious woman at the typewriter down there? Yes, her, in what appears to be a hazy nook, probably situated between a quaint haberdashery and a sleepy pub, tucked somewhere abouts London or Cork. This, my friends, is what many people fantasize as a writer’s life. It is also patently false (unless you’re an Irish or English hipster who can afford some prime-time real estate). Us modern/non-Irish or English hipster writers instead often fold open a laptop and get to work on a standing desk, sitting on a beanbag chair, lying on the floor or slouching at the kitchen table. Writing has become something that no longer requires setup and preparation — at least for the physical act of it. The creative planning process and strategy of writing is another story altogether.
At Findsome & Winmore, I write a lot of blog posts. That’s an understatement — I’m a blog-post-writing machine (official title change pending). That being said, I still have to put in time to prep for every single blog post I commit to writing. It’s an unglamorous-but-necessary step toward not only writing with quality, but also writing proficiently. This is a factor that many writers forget — speed is as important as consistency is as important as creativity.
In an effort to build your blog posts on a consistent foundation and make the entire writing process altogether quicker, I present to you my blog post checklist.
Adam’s Unimaginatively Titled Blog Post Checklist 2016
Your title needs to run the line between SEO friendly and creatively intriguing, unlike my blog post checklist title. This is no easy feat, but crafting a title that includes search terms, or even an entire search phrase, can dramatically boost your chances of being read.
Though it’s a point of contention for many content writers and SEO strategists, I have to err on the side of creativity. If an SEO term is in a cage match with a catchy title that may hook my audience, SEO’s getting tapped out. Sorry SEO, you’re still valuable and I still love you. But as often as you can, do try to combine both SEO and title catchiness.
People love pictures. I can write for days, eloquently describing a concept to the best of my ability, but if there is not some kind of visual break to give my readers a breather, chances are, they’ll be out quicker that you can say, “short attention span.”
However, never include imagery that you do not have the right to use. Though there are a multitude of free image sites, always ensure that the image does not require a specific level of attribution before plastering it on your post. My personal favorite resource: Pixabay.com.
As mentioned above, SEO plays an important role in getting your content discovered. I focus less on inappropriately stuffing my content with keywords and, instead, use my selected keywords strategically. For instance, section titles and passages in which keywords naturally fit are prime ways to enrich your content for search engines without sacrificing readability.
Also, I make an effort to minimize linking to outside websites, unless necessary for the reader’s education or reference on a given subject. On the other hand, linking to one’s own website is a best practice if you have additional information that can enrich the reading experience. Lastly, and most importantly, writing quality, original content is always a major SEO boost.
Metadata and More
Utilizing the WordPress platform with the Yoast SEO plugin, I am able to add an SEO title, meta description, categories and tags. We recommend using your keyword and brand name within the SEO title, writing a meta description that also utilizes the keyword and quickly states the purpose of your blog.
Beyond that, categories should be established on your blog so readers can easily navigate to the content they care most about. If I’m on a boating blog, for instance, but I only care about sailboats, I don’t want to slog through dozens of articles on powerboats or jet skis. Set categories like you may set up file folders on your computer and try to limit each blog post to only one or two categories, max. These are meant to be specific, so adding a “Boats” category to your boating blog may not make much sense.
Tags, on the other hand, are a bit more free to use, but still not irresponsibly. Continuing the boating example, if I write a blog on fishing, I can tag key terms that I discuss within the article (such as “tuna” or “fishing rods”) but I would not tag “Miley Cyrus” just because she’s a popular search term and may have, at one time or another, been on a boat.
When you combine an attention-grabbing title with eye-catching visuals, appropriately implemented keywords and accurate metadata, you may just find yourself ready to write a blog post that delivers the goods. Create a template from which you start every one of your posts. I use Google Docs, mostly for its ubiquity on desktop and mobile, but also because it allows for quick sharing and copy proofing from my compatriots.
Whatever your subject or limitations, building content from a solid foundation always leads to better results. Taking the above points to heart, do yourself a favor and work from a template that frees up more valuable time to do what you set out to do in that imaginary, vaguely European nook in the first place: be creative.